How to keep your gums strong and healthy
If you want to have a movie-star smile, you want to have not just clean, shiny teeth but also healthy gums. Your gums are the foundation of your smile because they hold your teeth in place. They are essential to protecting your teeth’s roots and the bones beneath the surface. This article looks at ways to take care of your gums and guard against gum disease.
What is gum disease?
There are two main types of gum disease. Gingivitis is the most mild form, where your gums may be red, swollen, and prone to bleeding. This type of gum disease can usually be corrected by better home care, if you catch it soon enough.
If you don’t take care of your gingivitis, periodontitis can be the next stage, where plaque grows below the gum line and gums start to separate from the teeth. Next, infection can form in those pockets, which can destroy gum and bone tissue. Often the damage cannot be reversed. Periodontitis needs to be treated by a periodontist to help prevent further loss of gum and bone tissue.
How do I avoid gum disease?
For most people, good home care and twice-a-year visits to the dentist—where the dentist uses deeper cleaning tools—are enough to keep your gums healthy. Here are some simple tips to keep your gums as healthy as possible.
- See your dentist twice a year—Your dentist not only checks for cavities, but also cleans your teeth using tools that are more effective than your usual home care.
- Brush your teeth after meals—The idea behind avoiding gum disease is keeping the bacteria out of your mouth, since bacteria is the main culprit in causing plaque to form. Brushing between meals helps to remove food and slow down the buildup of plaque.
- Use proper brushing techniques—Brushing your teeth only helps if you do it right. Brushing too hard can actually damage your gums. You want to brush using soft bristles and a gentle circular motion along the gum line for a full two minutes.
- Consider an electric toothbrush—If you can’t get the brushing technique right, you might want to consider an electric toothbrush. You still have to brush carefully for two minutes, but the electric toothbrush gets the motion right for you.
- Brush your tongue too—Bacteria can accumulate on your tongue too. You can simply use your toothbrush, or, if you’re having trouble removing the white filmy material, then try a tongue cleaner.
- Floss every day—Dentists recommend that you floss once a day—usually at night. This helps to remove food particles between your teeth. Floss also helps to scrape the between-teeth surfaces free of bacteria—a place where your toothbrush can’t reach. Just like with brushing, it’s important to use proper flossing techniques.
- Use mouthwash—Certain mouthwashes are specifically designed for gum health. They can help remove any particles that you’ve missed and contain solutions that help to kill bacteria.
What are the risk factors for gum disease?
There are certain risk factors that can make you more likely to get gum disease, and some of them are lifestyle choices that you can avoid.
- Food choices—Try to avoid foods that are bad for your teeth, such as sticky sweet foods, sugary sodas, and starchy snacks that get stuck in your teeth.
- Smoking—Smoking is a big risk factor for gum disease. If you’re a smoker, the health of your teeth and gums is at risk.
- Teeth-grinding—Stress and teeth-grinding can affect your teeth and gums. Try to find ways to get the stress out of your life.
- Health, age, and genetics—Some factors are out of your control. Your age and your genetics can be a factor, as can other systemic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Some medications can affect your gums, like oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, and some heart medicines. So it’s important to tell your dentist about your health history and medications.
We hope these dental tips will be useful as you take steps toward developing healthy mouth care habits. For more advice on keeping your teeth and gums healthy, try the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy website.
This article was provided by the Harris School of Business, serving students in the Delaware Valley, Philadelphia, and south Jersey regions. One of our career-focused training programs is our Dental Assistant training program, where our students learn to promote good dental hygiene and home care habits. Find out more about enrolling with us.